It was supposed to be a week of celebration — the school year had just ended, and my friends and co-workers were having celebrations left and right. I was personally having a lot of fun in the time period between my job and my summer job. I have a week to essentially do nothing, spend time with my friends and girlfriend, and assist my friends leaving Baltimore to move.
However, the week ended up not manifesting that way. On Friday, I was called about a family emergency involving my brother and his mental health struggles.
My Friday and Saturday were entirely devoted to helping my brother. I had to schedule a flight on the same day to a small town in Maine, which cost a lot of money. I also had to schedule an impromptu flight back from Maine, which also cost a lot of money.
But the entire episode ended up being an absolute mess. I almost don’t have the words for it, but I’ll muster up something. I was trying to make sure my brother was okay and safe, to accommodate his needs and answer the call for a family emergency. I thought it would be a short and quick trip where I was just checking in — it was not.
I don’t want to give too much away about the details, but almost none of this trip was pleasant. None of it was fun. It was a lot more arguing than I’m used to, as well as being on high alert the entire time. I didn’t sleep well and had to drive for several hours from Maine on the way back to my parents’ home in New York.
Again, I’ll try not to disclose not too many details for the sake of my family’s privacy. But what I learned is caretaking is very difficult and arduous work. Not everyone will appreciate you going out of your way in an emergency, and sometimes, we do not see the fruits of our labor until much later on.
Despite the weekend being absolutely joyless, what I did learn is gratitude for the smallest things. I have been lacking in my prayer life to God, but I prayed long and hard before I went to sleep last night.
As bad as things got for my brother, he was safe. He was okay. We were all safe. No one was hurt and I thanked God that it couldn’t get any worse, which might seem like it’s either naive or not that much to be grateful about. But I was.
Also, I spent the whole weekend with a short fuse and being incredibly impatient with my brother in his time of need, and I was trying the whole day to not say things I wouldn’t normally say like “shut up” or “the world doesn’t revolve around you.” I won’t give the excuse I couldn’t help myself, but I was uncharacteristically impatient, and I needed to look inward and ask why. Was I mad about having my weekend so disrupted by the emergency? Did I feel under-appreciated sacrificing so much of my time? Or was I just doing the absolute best I could given the situation?
I don’t know, but all I know is statements like that and treating family poorly in their time of need is unacceptable. I could say “I’m just treating him the way he treated me” but in no way does de-escalation require profanity. If I say my goal is to love my neighbor and do unto others as I would myself, then I did a pretty bad job this weekend.
Perhaps the weekend showed me I don’t have a limitless amount of empathy. And given how stressful this weekend was, perhaps it’s a sign I need to take care of myself. I was asked if I wanted to stay in New York for another day and spend time with my brother, but no, frankly, I didn’t. When I got to the airport, all I could think was “I really need a drink right now” but then I just went straight to my gate and took a nap.
I can do a lot better.
Tomorrow will hopefully be a better day.
Originally published on June 19, 2021 on The Partnered Pen.
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